Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps! [Iron Man]

I love great movie lines. My love for movies was carried on the back of quoting movies with my friends as we drove around aimlessly from fast food restaurant, to store, to movie theater, to someone’s parent’s basement. I have already shown this love for movie lines in previous posts (Mediocre [Mad Max: Fury Road]; How can you not be romantic about baseball? [Moneyball]; I Can’t Beat It [Manchester By The Sea]). But I thought I would get more direct and talk about a movie line I like- even if it is of no consequence to the greater film- and why I like it.

Lots of movie lines are great because of their significance (“I think we need a bigger boat.” “I am your father…” etc…). But many many more are great because they hit just right and stick in the center of your brain. And then, as life goes on, the line pops out of your mouth at the weirdest times. People inevitably ask, “Where is that from?” Because it was a line of no consequence, nothing to be remembered. It does not reveal its source. It was just something that stuck due to a sound quality or turn of phrase or emotional undercurrent. I love those lines, and I want to write about those lines.

And the best example of this is from Iron Man. Jeff Bridges, playing Tony Stark’s initially lovable business partner Obadiah Stane, delivers one hell of a line when he confronts one of his many scientists trying to recreate the power source to Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. The scientist informed Obadiah, that all the king’s scientists and all the king’s men could not put the arc reactor back together again. Obadiah, displeased at the news, tears into the diminutive scientist, 

“Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!” *pause* “With a box of scraps!”

So why is this line so great?

The Pause

When writing the line above, I took some authoritative license. The line is, “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!” But anyone who sees the scene, and subsequently hears this line, knows that there is an all-powerful pause in the middle of the line that makes it a line worth remembering.

The pause changes the reading of the line. Instead of becoming a fact of frustration, the pause emphasizes how seething Obadiah was. He is so blinded by rage that as he is yelling at this pathetic scientist, he can’t even remember all the reasons why the scientist should be able to replicate what Stark did. It’s the perfect representation of what yelling does to us. We speak in stops and starts, we remember more reasons why we are upset, and hop back into the tirade. So Stane is indignant that Stark was able to do this in a cave. 

And on top of that! He only had scraps with which to do it!

The Body Language

Obi is a big dude. And the angle of the camera for this line, and the way he stands and confronts the scientist is about as menacing as it gets. 

As the scientists begins talking, Stane whips his suit coat open and stands, facing the camera, with hands on hips, the picture of power, dominance. And then, when he delivers the line, he leans over the scientist, bending him back at a 45-degree angle, jabbing a thick finger into his hollow chest. He’s not just angry, he’s violent, and he is powerful. And all of that power and violence is imbued into this line.

The Rhythm

I imagine the temptation when given a line to yell is to rush through it linearly. But Bridges is too good for that. As noted above, the pause shows a patience to his anger, a reflection of just how frustrated he is at all the ways this situation shouldn’t be going the way it is. But also, he draws out some of the words. “Tony STAARK, was able to BUUIILD this in a CAAAVE! With a BOOX of SCRAAAPS!!” 

The cadence is just about perfect, and the rhythm makes it impossible for people not to leave the theater and mutter the quote under their breath, trying to get it just right.

The Turn Around

This part might be a tad overdramatic, but the underlying menace makes it acceptable. Obadiah Stane doesn’t just yell this line, with his hand in the scientist’s chest and his face inches away from the scientist’s face. He also wheels about in order to do it, sending his coat and tie flying in the process. It was so abrupt, cutting his prey off from continuing speaking, and showing Stain’s short fuse. His master plan wasn’t going according to plan, and he might need to start getting his hands dirty.

In some ways this marks a ‘turning’ point for the character. Breaking out of the capitalist-business approach to outdoing Tony Stark and needing to turn to the combative aggression that makes a Marvel villain. 

We see both sides to Stain in this scene. Before he turns around, he is heavy-handedly trying to get his scientists to build what he needs built to create what he wants to create. When he turns around, he becomes an embodiment of the anger and violence that he will rely on to get ahead. This side of him wasn’t unexpected but was a bit startling.

The Retort

This solidification process as a villain rather than just a bad guy happens after the scientist responds, “I’m sorry. I’m not Tony Stark.”

It is its own great line, solidifying the genius of the first Avenger and also pushing Stain over the edge. This line is the final convincer that Stain isn’t trying to overcome science or business or anything within the bounds of his profession. He is trying to overcome Tony Stark. And the rivalry is borne, and Stain must take the fight to Iron Man.

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If you liked this, you may also like:
How can you not be romantic about baseball? [Moneyball]
I Can’t Beat It [Manchester By The Sea]
May You Live Forever [300]
Mediocre [Mad Max: Fury Road]
This Is How I Win [Uncut Gems]
An Ode to Babu Frik: Hey-HEYYYY [Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker]

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